Grey County's Creation: 1852 

Grey County's Creation in 1852, laid the framework for organizing a county in the last wilderness in the southern region of what would become in the future the province of Ontario.

On April 15, 1852, a historic meeting was held in the home of James Coleman in the Town of Sydenham (Owen Sound). On that occasion the Provisional Council of Grey County held its inaugural meeting.

The formation of the new county brought together municipalities which had formerly been part of neighbouring counties. St. Vincent, Euphrasia, Artemesia and Proton had been attached to Simcoe County. While the townships to west had been joined with Wellington County in Waterloo District.

While the meeting of the Provisional Council in the spring of 1852 marked Grey County's creation, it was not totally independent. The new County of Grey would remain a part Wellington County until it had erected its own Court House and County Jail.

Those in attendance at this first meeting were Messrs. Lunn, Jackson, McNabb, Carney, Grey, Allen, Smith, Robertson, Beachell, Jones and Pringle. Mr. John George Grange chaired the session until a Provisional Warden could be elected. The honour of holding the title of first Warden of the new County of Grey went to James Beachell. James Gale was elected as the Provisional Clerk and Thomas Gordon was selected to the position of Provisional Treasurer. John Mills was appointed to the position of messenger and doorkeeper.

This first Council was charged with the responsibility of laying the groundwork for the new County. The Standing Rules of the Council of the County of Waterloo were adopted as the rules for the Provisional Council. The next item of business was to find a permanent location for the Court and Jail. Three citizens of the town of Sydenham, Donald McDonald, John Frost, and John Mills offered land for the erection of a Courthouse and Jail.

When the meeting adjourned, a committee of Councillors, set out to inspect the land sites. Several prominent citizens from Sydenham, John Frost, A.M. Stephens, F. Lepan, W.C. Boyd and R. Patterson, accompanied the committee on this tour. When the council met the next morning, the committee reported that the sites were not acceptable.  

The Committee conducted a further study to find land for the Courthouse and Jail and at the August 23, 1852 Council meeting it was proposed that the County buildings be constructed on what is now Victoria Park, but was then known as the Pleasure Grounds.

The Pleasure Grounds were owned by the Crown and it was felt that they served a more important use to community as a place for recreation. Consequently, the Council was forced to renew its search. The Government offered the County free land on Princess and Cathcart Street, but the Committee felt that this property did not suit its needs.

The Committee finally proposed to Council that they purchase lots 15 and 16 on Bay Street and lots 15 and 16 on Hill Street for 150 pounds. After acquiring the land, the Council proceeded to advertise for tenders to design and build the County Courthouse and Jail.  

county courthouse and jailCounty Courthouse and Jail - Paul White Historic Photograph Collection

On November 1, 1852 a contract was signed with Messrs. Dowling and Dougal to erect the building for the sum of 3,030 pounds cash, or 3,735 pounds if debentures were issued. Mr. Bruce of Guelph, whose design had been accepted was hired to act as the construction supervisor. The Provisional Council had taken the first step to enable Grey County to become an independent political entity.  

The information used in this article came from many sources, including A History of the County of Grey and various issues of the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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